by Emily J. Martin, Vice President,
National Women's Law Center
Last month, the New York Times told the story of Roshonda Bolton, a woman in Mississippi who lost her job in August when the factory where she had worked for 16 years shut down. After months in which she "applied for everything, found nothing," Ms. Bolton was finally hired to work at a napkin factory in January, through a program in which the state of Mississippi pays part of the wages for low-income workers, allowing employers to create jobs they otherwise would not be able to afford to add. Similarly, in Tennessee, as we previously noted, TANF emergency funds were used to create jobs and reduce unemployment rates in a particularly hard-hit area of the state.
These programs were funded through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) emergency fund, which was created in last year’s stimulus package to assist states in addressing increased poverty among families with children through cash welfare benefits, short-term emergency assistance (like one-time payments to avoid eviction), and subsidized jobs.
The unemployment rate among single mothers with children is currently more than 12 percent, making this program, with its focus on low-income parents, especially necessary. Unfortunately, the TANF emergency fund is currently due to expire at the end of September, and many of the more than 100,000 subsidized jobs like Ms. Bolton’s that have been created with the fund will expire with it, as will the other forms of assistance the fund has supported. Many states have also been hesitant to invest in these programs given the looming expiration date, and thus the full potential of the fund has not yet been realized.
Today, the Senate will vote on whether to include an extension and expansion of the TANF emergency fund as part of the “jobs bill” it is considering—a bill that currently provides crucial assistance to the unemployed but still does too little to create jobs and help families in crisis. This is the moment to tell your Senator that a jobs bill needs to give a boost to those who have suffered most in this economy: the TANF emergency fund does just that and should be extended and strengthened.